Business of Craft Season 4 Episode 5 Austin Rivers

Business of Craft Season 4 Episode 5 with Austin Rivers


Welcome to Business of Craft, a show designed to help entrepreneurs with fabric or fiber businesses become more successful. Our guests share best practices and teach effective marketing skills, that help crafty business owners learn to grow and scale. Let’s start crafting a better business together!

My guest today is the founder of Knit the Rainbow, Austin Rivers. I first met Austin at the h+h trade show where he had a booth and was collecting donations for his non-profit which we’re going to talk about today. In addition to being a  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional and activist, he is also a professional actor–having toured the USA as well as 20 countries worldwide.  He holds a BA in Politics as well as a Masters of Public Administration. Lastly, Austin currently serves as the Special Assistant to the Chief Diversity Officer at Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

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#1 Would you recount for us the moment you learned about the issue of LGBTQ+ homelessness in NYC and how that spurred you into action? 

#2 Give us the elevator pitch. If someone doesn’t know what Knit the Rainbow is, what do you tell them about the purpose of the organization?  

#3 What do people need to know about housing disparity in this community?

#4 What are some other myths about the LGBTQ+ community and homelessness that people just don’t get right?  

#5 Your website says that “At Knit the Rainbow we focus our programming in 5 areas”. Tell us what those are and elaborate on how you came to choose them as your focus?  

#6 How would people find out about those panels? 

#7 What does it look like when you’re actually distributing the garments to people in need?

#8 What kind of work did you have to do to set up the networks to find the people that needed these garments? How long did that take?  

#9 Do you ever get feedback from actual recipients? What kind of feedback loop exists? 

#10 KTR also has a community outreach component. What outreach are you doing and what impacts are you seeing? 

#11 If we had listeners in the NYC area, there are opportunities for both students and teachers to learn and teach knitting and crochet right? 

#12 Tell us about your expansion plans? 

#13 In our 2020/21 fiscal year you collected 3,800 handmade winter garments. These garments came from over 100 KtR volunteers from 29 states and 3 countries. What are your goals for the 22/23 year? (29:15)

#14 This show is airing Nov 15th so we’re just upon the cold weather season for NYC. What is the greatest demand you have for garments right now? 

#15 And how do folks actually donate? Can they just mail in their items or are there dropoffs? 

#16 Are yarn shops having dedicated crafting nights or fundraising efforts for you?

#17 Of course if we have listeners who want to make something but they are not able, you provide an easy donation button on your site where they can support Knit the Rainbow? 

#18 I want to shift gears a bit into some of the other work you’re doing. I mentioned in the introduction that you serve as the Special Assistant to the Chief Diversity Officer at Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Can you tell us a little more about that?

#19 If you were to give us an assessment of how the crafting industry is doing today, as well as what are the areas where we need to do more work? 

Key Takeaways:

There is a distinction between homeless and houseless: many people don’t have a house or a structure within which to shelter, but many of these folks have a place they feel is home.

A large percentage of LGBTQ+ youth faces homelessness or houselessness in their lifetimes. The group is not a monolith and each person needs individual attention and services, but Knit the Rainbow focuses on keeping them warm during the winter months and providing them with other resources (crafting classes, connections to other aid organizations, etc).

Anyone interested in knitting or crocheting donations is welcome! Especially of need are mittens/fingerless mitts and socks. Hats and scarves are welcome, but plentiful.

The journey to making a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive is always one that “needs improvement;” we must always work to be actively anti-racist and representing all voices.


Connect with Austin:  Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry | Knit the Rainbow

Ali Forney Center for LGBTQ+ homeless:

Kelly Clarkson Show link: